Francyne Joe, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, speaks to reporters at a July 2017 meeting of the Council of the Federation in Edmonton, while, from left, Robert Bertrand, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples; New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant; and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson While the provisional United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is progressive for Indigenous peoples in all three countries, it doesn’t do enough for Indigenous women and girls, says the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).
“We need to make sure it’s not just the Indigenous community being included at the table,” Francyne Joe, president of NWAC, told iPolitics. “We need to bring forward a gender-specific conversation.”
Last summer, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland laid out her plan for a progressive NAFTA 2.0 renegotiation, which included two separate chapters: one dedicated to gender rights and another to Indigenous peoples.
Freeland is borrowing from Chile’s playbook. The country broke ground in 2016 with the first-ever chapter covering trade and gender in the Chile-Uruguay Free Trade Agreement.
The 2017 Canada-Chile trade agreement also acknowledges “the importance of incorporating a gender perspective” in trade to foster more economic growth. The agreement also created a trade and gender committee, with representatives from both nations to monitor progress.
The final United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) looks much different. Gender references are scattered throughout, including new obligations for all countries to eliminate gender discrimination in employment.
The deal also includes a provision to “strengthen their collaboration” to promote small- and medium-sized businesses of “under-represented groups,” including women and Indigenous peoples.
But to Joe, this needs to translate into tangible supports so Indigenous women can properly conduct business. For example, all three governments should support Indigenous women in the mining industry.
Less than 48 hours after the USMCA was signed, Joe met her American and Mexican counterparts for an informal trilateral meeting in Mexico City. She alleges none of the countries involved included Indigenous women in their consultations.
The women covered many other topics at the meeting, including entrepreneurship and ending gender-based violence, with a promise to hold more trilateral meetings in the future.
iPolitics reached out to other members at the trilateral meeting, but they declined to comment.
Indigenous women need to be given a spot alongside policymakers at future international negotiations, Joe said, so their perspectives can be included in future trade deals.
“(Negotiations) are dominated by men,” she said. “There needs to be more inclusion of Indigenous women at the trade table, because we bring a different view … and we are left out.”
Angella MacEwen, a senior economist with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said it would be “far more useful” for the USMCA to employ a process similar to the one laid out in the Canada-Chile agreement, which considers the different ways gender equality is affected by the economy, foreign investment, and international trade.
What we are left with instead, she said, is a trade agreement full of “vague and unenforceable statements” on matters of gender.
“This type of chapter is largely symbolic anyway, so the failure to negotiate a gender chapter in USMCA is not much of a loss,” MacEwen wrote in a Policy Options article.The chapter on Indigenous peoples fared better. Article 35 of the USMCA includes a general exception for Indigenous rights that decrees: “Nothing in this Agreement shall preclude a Party from adopting or maintaining a measure” in a country’s legal obligation to Indigenous peoples.To Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, the clause is “pivotal” to advance the interests of Indigenous groups across the continent.“The general exception clause is much stronger than we have seen in other […]
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